The European Commission’s ‘Ex-Smokers are Unstoppable’ campaign already had a massive 300,000 signees. How do you go about taking a campaign of that magnitude to the next step? The team at Saatchi & Saatchi Brussels have smashed it and welcomed FC Barcelona into the mix. Living up to its slogan of ‘Més que un club’ [‘More than a club’], some of Barça’s biggest stars are now participating, plonking the fan-player relationship on its head – you become the athlete and the club supports you. We chatted to Jan Teulingx, ECD at Saatchi & Saatchi Brussels to delve deeper into conception and reaction.
LBB> What was the initial brief from the client and did they specifically mention getting a sports team on board? What were your initial thoughts?
JT> No, you have to make a three-year plan for this kind of tender. It didn’t involve these kinds of thoughts. It was a creative idea that made a lot of sense. We couldn’t find a good argument against it. It would be sexy for the European Commission. The whole campaign would get high visibility, Barça fans are right in the target audience group and, most importantly for me, the integrated help tool would now get a face, body, hands and extremely skilled feet to take the ‘Unstoppable’ campaign a lot further.
LBB> How did the relationship with Barcelona originally come about?
JT> Karen [Smessaert] and I knocking on their door, basically. We requested a meeting and they treated us with the greatest respect – how often do you get that as an ad agency? We presented for about 45 minutes and they immediately asked “When can you start?” We were invited to the game that evening. I’ve been suspiciously looking around this whole time for someone to show up and tell me ‘smile, you’re on candid camera’. But, so far, that luckily hasn’t happened.
LBB> Almost 300,000 Europeans had signed up to the quit smoking campaign prior to Barcelona's involvement. What do you feel the football club's inclusion can bring to it?
JT> First of all: emotion. It’s very different to receive tips in your personal media from unreachable people like Iniesta and Xavi, rather than from the European Commission.
Second: credibility. All the coaches in the programme have the right to talk about these subjects – movement, food, character, strategy or experience. You can always get support from your girlfriend or mother to quit. But this is probably a bit more hands-on.
LBB> How long did it take to fully develop the concept and what were the key challenges you faced?
JT> Concepts have no time. You don’t find ideas in weeks but in matters of seconds. The decision processes of the European Commission slightly differ from FC Barcelona’s way of working. Since this is a partnership and not a ‘let’s throw some European money down the drain-pipe’, we worked closely together with Barça’s TV crews, their marketing department etc.
In a way, there were no classic client-agency or agency-production company ways of working. To be honest, that led to far less discussions and problems. I asked one of my best friends to spend time in the club and make as many friends as possible. We ended up with a bunch of very talented and motivated people, the telephone numbers of most of their ex-girlfriends and the codes to the Camp Nou stadium.
LBB> Some of the world's most well-known football stars, such as Xavi and Andres Iniesta, are participating in the campaign. What was it like working with them? Were they keen to get on board and help?
JT> I have learned that Barça is not just a world class club for their players. Everyone in the club we met are active listeners, hard workers and, most of all, polite people. The players you mention have spent most of their life between these values and rules.
LBB> The player-fan relationship has been completely turned on its head with this new concept. What has the reaction been like so far from football fans?
JT> Working with Barça media is fantastic. You get an immediate response via social media and you can read all the reactions. My favourites include, “I’m a Real Madrid fan and I really love this,” and a ‘like’ from some Argentinian guy named Lionel Messi.
LBB> Can we expect to see more brands/teams getting on board the campaign in the future? Are there any other plans you can tell us about?
JT> We’ve just launched and we’re having a beer in an Irish pub next to Camp Nou. What can we say… good things come to those who wait…